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017: Kitchen Side: How Do Growth and Content Overlap?

017: Kitchen Side: How Do Growth and Content Overlap?

If you’re new here, Kitchen Side is a series where we take you behind the scenes at Omniscient Digital to hear the conversations, brainstorms, discussions and inner workings of our content marketing agency. 

In this episode, we talk about the relationship between content marketing and growth. How do the two functions interact in organizations? Does content play a fundamental role in growth? Or is it separated by metrics or organizational structure? As an agency goaled on performance metrics, we find that the two are intertwined and synergistic. We dive into this and explore solutions to get you more out of your content program. 

The Long Game is hosted by Alex Birkett and David Ly Khim who co-founded Omniscient Digital to help companies ranging from early-state to scale-ups with growth strategy, SEO, and content marketing. Allie Decker, Head of Content, joins the conversation as well.

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01:49 – Contribute to business goals

David defined growth marketing as any marketing effort, including content marketing, that has a specific purpose and is tied to business goals.

“I actually view growth as more of like – in a current world how people define it as a marketer that has some sort of hypothesis for why a certain marketing tactic or campaign is being run. Has metrics that they’re measuring themselves towards. And figuring out how those metrics are tying back to business value, and therefore able to make a case for I’m doing this X project, which I expect to move metrics by this much, which influences this business goal. Hopefully every marketer approaches their work that way, but that’s how I view growth. And if we use that for content marketing, and layer it on, it’s more of how do we not just create content for content’s sake, but how do we make sure that the content we create is contributing to business goals. And how do we make sure that every piece of content has a purpose, whether it’s thought leadership as a goal, or is it to bring in traffic or is it to bring in leads? There should be some job to be done by every piece of content.”

03:58 – Keep a growth mindset

Alex said that now that the cloud has made it so we can track all sorts of metrics, every team should be using a growth mindset and tracking the performance of their efforts, not just a growth team.

“I think the growth mindset is more important than the growth team nowadays. Because I actually think that many brand teams tend and should measure a lot of what they’re doing, even though it’s not maybe directly tied to a trial or a conversion or something like that. But I think you can apply the same mindset of modeling your currently existing baseline data. Looking at the inputs and outputs and where you can have the most leverage. Coming up with hypotheses and testing those more rigorously than just throwing your hands in the air and saying, oh, this is probably good for brand or something like that. So I think multiple teams now operate under that growth banner.”

06:15 – Create content for the whole funnel

Allie said typically content teams are creating content for engagement through conversion. But content should move into post-conversion spaces, too.

“Content marketing, in my short definition, would be creating content in order to engage, interest, and convert audiences. But thinking about it in the context of our conversation, that is just a small definition in terms of the acquisition play, very much top of funnel. Pre-pre-purchase almost up to the sale, which is primarily where I live. But when we think about it, in terms of the whole growth effort, I think a lot of folks see content hit a wall after folks convert. And then it moves on to sales, sales enablement, then retention, and then customer success or customer service or whatever you want to call it. And I think more and more content teams should be challenged to own the whole process or have at least representation in each part of the process.”

12:02 – Talk to other teams

Alex said it’s ok if content is being created by different teams. But those teams should share resources to create better-performing content.

“I feel like it’s actually okay if they sit under different orgs, because there probably is some additional contextual insights that, say, a product content person is going to have with regards to the product experience. Same thing for the marketing side, which is the same thing with growth marketers and growth product managers. They have domain expertise. But the important thing I think is that they talk. Because the product side, they could benefit from the insights of knowing what content people read before they actually came in, and that may help them craft a better journey towards that activation point, towards that monetization point, and vice versa. There’s a lot of tactical content within the app or within the retention level that could be used on the blogs to better inform people.”

14:37 – View content marketing as part of growth

Alex said a growth team maintains the growth model and can pinpoint where there are needs, whether that’s top of funnel content marketing or bottom of the funnel retention content.

“I like the lens that the growth marketer or the head of growth or product growth or whoever that growth person is, they build and maintain the growth model. I think that’s the foundational piece of almost all activities. So you basically map out: what are your expectations? What do you need to hit in terms of new users or new trials or something for your sales team or for your analyst expectations if you’re a public company, or whatever the service level agreement is with whatever side of that org that is accepting the customers, or what the expectations are. And then you map out all the channels and the traffic and conversions and everything you would need or everything you have currently. And then you can pinpoint which areas you want to focus on. And I think the growth marketer growth person can then say, all right, we need more effort on acquisition. And therefore we’re going to invest more in content marketing and in this area. Or we’re doing poorly on retention, so actually we need to invest more in content in this area. I think they can make those high-level decisions.”

16:02 – Lead with data

David said that the traditional difference between content marketers and growth marketers is that growth marketers have a data-minded approach to content and focus on ROI.

“We actually started building models to say, okay, well, what keywords are we going after? And if we project out and forecast growth and traffic, what does that look like? What’s the potential based on keywords and based on that traffic growth? What’s the potential to grow leads coming from that content? It’s sort of that data-minded medicine. Figuring out the levers of, is content even a lever to pull here if our goal is to drive leads? I think that’s the question I don’t typically hear from other content marketers who don’t have the growth mindset. Where a growth person, I’d say: here are the keywords you’re saying you want, this will grow traffic by this amount over the next year. Is that meaningful enough based on a budget that we’re about to invest in this? If it is, let’s move forward. If it isn’t, well is it that content isn’t the right lever? Or is it that we’re targeting the wrong keywords, or that our conversion rates aren’t good enough? Let’s dig into that before we decide to invest. Because a growth person is not just thinking about the input of content. They’re thinking about the outputs.”

20:37 – Develop a technical mindset 

Alex said that there are fewer data-driven education opportunities for content marketers vs. growth marketer roles, but that a lot of it comes down to the company culture or environment.

“I think there’s very few resources for content marketers in the same way that there are for your growth marketers or CROs or something. We have Reforged and we have CXL Institute and there’s just a myriad of different programs you can take in education. Whereas I don’t think there’s a lot when it comes to what we could call a data-driven content marketer or a technical content marketer. And I actually think, to get meta, I think that’s why our content tends to resonate. And the way we put it out, we’re talking about growth modeling. Our course is really data-driven and quite technical for most content marketing. And I think there’s a dearth of content around that. So I think it probably is an education and experience thing. But I will say I studied journalism in college, but then I joined a company where I got very data-driven very quickly and started doing CRO and started doing AB testing and all this stuff. So I developed that mindset.”

25:06 – Prioritize quality and purpose

Allie said there’s a quantity crisis in content marketing. Speed may be important, but things shouldn’t be that fast if they sacrifice quality and purpose.

“Content has become a quantity game, partially in the sacrifice of quality. But because there are so many writers and a lot of them don’t charge a lot of money like they should, or they’re maybe just not very good, I think a lot of organizations have started just literally churning, knowing that one in every 20 pieces might rank might convert, But hey, the more we put out, the more we have the potential to attract. I mean, it’s a decent idea in theory, but execution puts strain on an organization and completely veers away from a data-driven approach. You can’t explain with data 90 pieces a quarter. That just seems a little much. And eventually in order to satisfy those quantities, half those pieces probably aren’t even meant to be created, or they’re not created properly, or they’re not rooted in the right kind of keywords.”

29:50 – Develop data skills

David said because there isn’t an expectation for content marketers to be skilled in data analysis, it’s on them to develop those skills and change the culture.

“If you’re a strong content marketer that can create great content and also can report back on the impact of said content on traffic or leads, or even mapping all the way down to revenue, you’re going to be viewed as very valuable and be seen as someone who can take on more responsibility that can communicate these sort of results and thinks about the business results and not just the input of creating content. Because I think a lot of content marketing teams aren’t pushed to think that way. I do think the onus is on the individual content marketer to make the effort and take the initiative to develop those skills. Because if a company isn’t asking for a content marketer to do those things, there isn’t incentive to do that. Which I think continues to perpetuate that content marketers are only there to churn out content. And I don’t think that’s right. I don’t think that’s the right way to view a content marketer, or the best value that they can provide.” 

32:47- Make hypotheses, don’t just crunch numbers

David said not every effort has to be backed up by hard numbers. The purpose of content can be to test hypotheses that will bring in ROI over time.

“I think the piece of growth that often gets overlooked is the idea of having a hypothesis for why you do things. Because sometimes there isn’t data to back stuff up, and you just got to make sure there’s clear reasoning and logic. Like us creating a podcast, like us hiring Karissa. For you to come on, produce a podcast, these Kitchen Sides. We had a hypothesis that producing this podcast would help us develop as thought leaders, get more ideas out there and develop more credibility. And how do you put data behind that? Sure, we could say numbers of downloads on a podcast. We’re not going to expect millions of downloads in the next year. But we’re getting the feedback from people ‘oh, I love your podcasts.’ Or, ‘Hey, I thought this was interesting.’ And that to us validates the hypothesis that 1), bringing on Karissa was a wonderful idea for inner musings, 2), that a podcast will build up the ROI over time.”

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Alex Birkett

Alex is a co-founder of Omniscient Digital. He loves experimentation, building things, and adventurous sports (scuba diving, skiing, and jiu jitsu primarily). He lives in Austin, Texas with his dog Biscuit.